The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

They get the products, we get the layoffs

Sep 8, 2003

For 37 months in a row, each and every month, U.S. manufacturing companies have eliminated more jobs than are created. Month after month, we see numbers like "44,000 jobs axed from payroll." Month after month, the ranks of the unemployed grow and grow–much more than the official statistics show. Since February 2001, at least 2.6 million jobs vanished.

Surely this means that not as many goods and services are being produced? Wrong! More are being produced. What accounts for this apparent contradiction is productivity. The average output of the average U.S. worker is not only up – it's way up. In 2002, while jobs were disappearing, the growth in productivity was averaging close to five% per year. In manufacturing, the increase in productivity was even higher.

The owners of businesses are extracting more and more output from fewer and fewer workers. This is why, even though we know it is a lie, we can hear politicians say we are in a "recovery." It's always a recovery for the rich, when they can take more products from a smaller payroll!

But why should this be a recovery for the rich? They make no goods. They provide no services, unless supporting Wall Street speculators can be called a "service." No, the goods and services necessary to move the economy come only from the labor of millions and millions of workers. So why should we not get the benefits of our labor?

Advances in productivity need not automatically go to the bosses. Workers could greatly enjoy the benefits of productivity growth. Making more output in a day means everyone can go home early. Need a vacation day? Take two! Need a week's vacation? Take a month!

Making more goods and services per hour means everyone can slow down – with all the accompanying health and safety benefits. Also, making more goods and services in a year means that everything should be cheaper – everything from health care to fishing poles!

Yes, productivity increases such as we see today would mean a great recovery for the working class. But not if we let the rich take it all for themselves!